In all my reading of the discussions, I see this theme of making sure you pick songs that go along with the sermon topic for that Sunday. Why is that? In all my years growing up in church I don't think I ever noticed from one Sunday to the next wether the songs matched the sermon theme. Nor have I, as a worship leader ever felt compelled to do that, and the HS still moves powerfully in our worship (music and message).
Is there some scriptural guideline that I'm missing? I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this.
I don't think there is a scripture guideline per-say. From my understanding there two schools of thought when it comes to creating a worship set:
a) Create theologically sound set, regardless of the message. Ideally moving through a progression for the congregation through a flow, much like ACTS prayer model. This is great way to get the congregation "broken down" and prepared for the message. The great thing here is that a set can re-used in the future, as it's sermon topic agnostic.
b) Create an entire worship service that has a common theme which is re-enforced by all aspects of the service, including the PPT, songs, Pastor Prayers, etc. Guidelines like NCD (http://www.ncd-international.org/public/) talk about the most effective or inspiring worship services are those that have a very obvious singular theme. Rhetorically, it would the literary device" "Repetition, repetition, repetition". The downside is that the team, including the speaker need to be well-planned and well-prepared. This method also severely limits the songs you can draw upon and can be a lot more work. Lastly, for some topics this is very very hard to do, or just about impossible, as unfortunately there are topics which are less written about song-wise than others.
(Note: There is probably some middle ground, but that's the basic ends of the spectrum.)
For me, I do my best to go with option b) when I'm creating the sets. Especially with the response song, because while the sermon is move passive, worship is pro-active. It gives the audience to respond to God, to put into the action the message. I like making the them obvious with the use of songs that use the 'key word of the day', like "Surrender" or "Love" or the names of Jesus. I find it awkward sometimes when I hear a message on God's love, forgiveness and comfort and respond with a song like "Battle Belongs To The Lord", about God crashing His enemies, smiting them down with big bolts of lightning, cutting them down where they stand...etc.
I don't want to say one way is better than another way. I choose to go with b) consciously. It's more work, but for the last year or so I've done this and gotten some very very positive results with some members commenting how they were moved with the song selection. However, we have the luxury of a very very organized pastor and we pick a theme well in advance for the Sunday, with a passage and sermon title, and the we try to incorporate as much of the service to align and re-enforce that concept or theme.
But much like I know God uses me as a sinful, cracked vessel, sometimes no matter what we do God/Holy Spirit works in spite of us. =) God moves when God moves. I just try not to get in the way too much.
I would tend to follow Wayne's "a" version more than "b" - I pick my songs independently of the sermon topic, although at times I will put in a song right before the sermon that goes along with the theme for that Sunday - I don't hold out much hope for the congregation catching on to a "theme" for more than one song!
If the message is geared towards repentance or a time of committment, then I'll usually put a meditative song at the end, so that people can respond during it. If it's a "go out and change the world" Sunday, then I'll use an upbeat song.
I, too, have found that overall the Holy Spirit uses whatever we bring and pulls the whole service together, provided we are coming humbly and with expectant hearts.
I tend to do a hybrid of both. I try to find at least one or two songs that fit the theme of the day and choose the rest independent of the theme. I do this by planning the songs before talking with the pastor and adjust based off my conversation with him. Sometimes, I scrap the whole thing and start over with all theme related songs. Other times, I stick with what I originally selected.
It all depends on how the Spirit moves me. I don't think how we choose our songs for worship has much affect on how the Spirit moves in our worship. As long as we prayerfully make decisions, God will take care of the rest.
Our leader always seems to match the songs to the sermon - she prays as she chooses the songs/hymns and the preachers are always grateful and amazed! I think it is good to have songs that pertain to the message, especially leading into the sermon, it prepares the hearts of the people..... x
Sometimes there's just no aligning the two. But in those cases I try to view the sermon topic as generally as possible and pick songs according to that. If that doesn't work, I have a big wheel with all the songs around the edge and I give it a whirl.
If you want to be really Biblical about it you can cast lots.
The good news is that most worship songs are fairly generic anyway. Hm, the sermon will probably have something to do with God so that leaves lots of options!
i rarely ever worked on a songlist based on a theme. many themes make for difficult song choices. senior pastor doing a series on "the family"... hmm... "i'm so glad i'm a part of the family of God..." o my... so... put together a good worship set and let God move.
I am not too hung up on getting songs to fit in with the preaching theme. Why? Because in Psalm 34:10 it says "those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing". This suggests to me that as long as I have the people seeking the Lord they are being positioned to receive good things from him. So I won't be that particular.
If you are working with a pastor who used to be a worship leader, then you may get song requests or suggestions. I treat those with the weight of a "thus saith the Lord" in my song planning. I don't mind them (as long as I get enough time to prepare), because it takes the responsibility of choosing the songs off my shoulders and directly unto the pastor's! :)
I'm not so sure it does help them connect...unless you're talking about the song right before the message or the one right after it. Of course, this is a general statement - every congregation is different. But I'm just not so sure that a set of songs sung 20 minutes before the sermon begins really sticks in the mind of the average person in the pew.
I'd love to do that, but if it's too tough I won't beat myself over the head over it.
Of course, as a worship leader I'd like to think of myself prepared for all eventualities, which means that if I can't find a suitable song to link with a pastor's sermon I tend to take it as a personal and professional failing... that's why I have to learn to take it easy on myself once in a while! :)
Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this. It's nice to know that it's not some spiritual mandate that we've somehow managed to completely miss. :) We will continue on with what we are doing then, in awe and reverence that God has chosen to use us to teach people how to enter into His presence.